Placement Guidelines

Most students studying a second language can determine their appropriate level by adhering to the following guidelines.  However, various factors (i.e., the strength of the program in which the student previously studied the language, how long it has been since the student has used the language, the extent of the student's exposure to the language at home/in social settings, the student's knowledge of other languages, etc.) make it such that these are only guidelines and individual cases may differ. For this reason, on the first day of class of each course section, the instructor conducts a diagnostic evaluation of students' abilities. The instructor will then inform students whether that course is indeed the level or track that will benefit him/her the most or, if not, which course he/she must take. For this reason, it is extremely important that students attend their language class on the first day of class for the semester. 

Students who wish to study Spanish (as a second language, native language, or heritage language) can get more tailored placement advice through our on-line placement advisor


The following are MLL’s general placement guidelines

  1. If you have not studied Arabic, Chinese, French, German, Hebrew, Italian, Japanese, or Spanish in high school, or have completed one to two years of high school instruction, take 101; for Portuguese, take 105.
  2. If you have taken 101 or its equivalent at another institution, take 102.
  3. If you have completed three years of high school instruction in French or Spanish, or scored a 3 on the AP language exam take 105. If you have had three years of high school Arabic, Chinese, German, Hebrew, Italian, or Japanese, take 102.
  4. If you have taken four years of high school French or Spanish, scored a 4 on the AP language exam or a 4 on the IB exam in French or Spanish, or took the equivalent of 102 or 105 at another university, take 201. If you have taken four years of high school German, Italian or Portuguese, take 201. If you have taken four years of Arabic, Chinese, Hebrew, or Japanese, take 201.
  5. If you had five to six years of French, German, Italian, or Spanish in middle and high school, take 202.
  6. If you have taken the equivalent of 201 at another university or scored a 5 on the AP language exam, you have completed your language requirement. If you wish to continue your studies, take 202.
  7. If you took the equivalent of 202 in French or Spanish at another university or scored a 4 on the AP literature exam, you have completed your language requirement.  If you wish to continue your studies, take 203. If you took the equivalent of 202 in German, Italian or Portuguese at another university, you have completed your language requirement.  If you wish to continue your studies, take 301.
  8. If you scored a 5 on the AP literature exam in French, Italian or Spanish, you have completed your language requirement. If you wish to continue your studies, take 301.

For questions regarding Basic Spanish contact: Dr. Rachel Varra, Interim Director of Spanish Basic Language courses, Dept. of Modern Langs. & Lits., Merrick 212-05  (rmv39@miami.edu)   305-284-4858 Ex: 8-7263

For questions regarding Basic French contact: Dr. Kevin Finn, Director of French Basic Language courses, Dept. of Modern Langs. & Lits., Merrick 210-32  (kfinn@miami.edu)   305-284-4858 Ex: 8-7242


The Department offers courses open to native speakers of French, German, Italian, Portuguese, and Spanish. Native speakers may not enroll in 101, 102, 105, 201, 202, 203, or 301 in their language. If you are a native speaker of French, German, Italian, or Portuguese, and graduated from a high school where that was the official language of instruction, you may take any course above 301 (consult with the respective Undergraduate Advisor). If you are a native speaker of Spanish and graduated from a high school where that was the official language of instruction, your first SPA course at UM must be either SPA 302 or SPA 303 or SPA 307 (which is a prerequisite for most other SPA courses).


The Department of Modern Languages & Literatures identifies as heritage learners of Spanish those students who begin their university studies of the language with little or no prior instruction in Spanish but who, because of family background or social experience, can already understand much casual spoken Spanish and have a passive knowledge of the language (though they may not usually speak the language themselves). In the great majority of cases, they have been born and fully educated in the United States, and may have grown up speaking principally English (or a ‘mix’ of Spanish and English, i.e. ‘Spanglish’) in the home with their grandparents, parents and siblings. Heritage learners may or may not consider themselves as “bilinguals” or “native speakers”, since both of these terms carry very different connotations—linguistic, social, and psychological—for different individuals. Some state that they “do not really speak Spanish” even though they are able to comprehend much spoken language (i.e., they are “passive bilinguals”). In the great majority of cases, they self-identify as “Hispanic” or “Latino/a”.

HERITAGE LEARNERS OF SPANISH MUST BE PLACED IN ONE OF THE FOLLOWING FOUR COURSES:

  1. SPA 107 Basic Spanish for Heritage Learners is for those students with little or no prior instruction in Spanish who, because of family background or social experience, can understand casual spoken Spanish and have a passive knowledge of the language although they do not usually speak the language themselves. Generally, their abilities to read and write Spanish are very weak. CLOSED TO STUDENTS WHO GRADUATED HIGH SCHOOL IN A SPANISH-SPEAKING COUNTRY.
  2. SPA 207 Intermediate Spanish for Heritage Learners is for those students WHO HAVE ALREADY TAKEN AND PASSED SPA 107 or who have studied Spanish for AT LEAST TWO YEARS IN HIGH SCHOOL. They can understand casual spoken Spanish and have some functional ability in speaking, reading and writing the language. CLOSED TO STUDENTS WHO GRADUATED HIGH SCHOOL IN A SPANISH-SPEAKING COUNTRY.
  3. SPA 208 Advanced Spanish for Heritage Learners is for those students who have studied Spanish for four years in high school and who have developed functional abilities in speaking, reading and writing the language. Students who earned a score of 5 on the AP Spanish Language Exam or 4 in the AP Literature Exam should register for this course. CLOSED TO STUDENTS WHO GRADUATED HIGH SCHOOL IN A SPANISH-SPEAKING COUNTRY.
  4. SPA 307 Introduction to Literary  Studies for Native/ Heritage Speakers is intended for those students who have completed secondary and/or university studies in a Spanish-speaking country and for those heritage learners who demonstrate an advanced level of productive competence (in the written and spoken modes) in Spanish because of prior formal study of the language. Heritage learners who place directly into 307 have taken AP Spanish literature in high school and earned a score of 5. 

SPA 101SPA 102SPA 105SPA 201SPA 202 AND SPA 203 ARE NOT FOR HERITAGE LEARNERS. ANY HERITAGE LEARNER WHO ENROLLS IN ONE OF THESE COURSES WILL BE OBLIGATED TO SWITCH TO A HERITAGE LANGUAGE COURSE (SPA 107SPA 207SPA 208 OR SPA 307) DURING THE FIRST WEEK OF CLASS.

Contact: Dr. Andrew Lynch, Director of Spanish Heritage Language courses, Dept. of Modern Langs. & Lits., Merrick 212-10  (a.lynch@miami.edu)   305-284-3229